Funding from Self-Help Credit Union enabled TLC to contract Seeds of Change Consulting, which conducted a feasibility study and created an equitable structure for the basis of the Good Ground Initiative.
LaShauna Austria, founder and principal of Seeds of Change Consulting is a farmer herself who has assisted multiple local and state-level food and farming initiatives. She integrates an understanding of racial equity within the food system to help organizations develop policies and campaigns that promote equity and inclusion for historically excluded stakeholders.
Jean Willoughby, the lead consultant, has spent more than ten years in economic development and working with farmers and land trusts around the country. Her work combines traditional conservation tools, new legal models, and innovative investment strategies to support small and mid-scale growers.
Phase 1: Gathering information from stakeholder interviews
Kicked off at the beginning of 2021, Austria and Willoughby’s multi-phase approach has continued in three phases. The focus of Phase 1 was information gathering through stakeholder interviews and data analysis to test the feasibility of the proposed program as well as stakeholder interest and capacity for participation. It incorporated partner organizations already engaged in meaningful conversations around land justice and equity in the food systems to ensure that TLC’s efforts uplift and contribute to current initiatives.
Phase 2: Using data to inform the pilot project
Used the information gathered from the community in Phase 1 to inform detailed development of the Good Ground Initiative. Conservation tools were adapted to address the gaps identified in Phase 1 while conforming to Land Trust Alliance accreditation and IRS 501c3 standards. Based on Phase 1 outcomes, TLC staff are designing a structure, identifying program partners, and establishing protocols for the pilot project.
Phase 3: Opening Ap
Carries out established procedures by opening applications to properties identified for Good Ground purposes. The application and interview process invites applicants to define their vision and agricultural plans and assesses the conservation values demonstrated by them. These are reviewed and elected by a third-party committee of community members representing professions relevant to the Good Ground Initiative. Chosen recipients participate in finalizing the structure of the land’s easement during the transfer process. They are connected to resources that facilitate their becoming successful land stewards. TLC will review lessons learned from the pilot project and incorporate improvements for future properties.
As Good Ground progresses, we will continue working to implement more programs that turn organizational resources and power into conservation and stewardship benefits accessible to all in our community.